Traditional Japanese Food: The Top 10 Foods You Have to Try in Japan (2022)

Traditional Japanese Food – With there being over 500,000 restaurants (and growing every day), there is no shortage of food in Japan. Make sure you try out these 10 Foods we think you HAVE to eat when you come to Japan!

Oh yeah, the Japanese characters are there purely in case there isn’t English around, and they are pronounced exactly the same as the English name next to them. If you recognize any of these on the streets, hop in and grab a bite to eat.

Table of Contents

Nikuzushi

Traditional Japanese Food: The Top 10 Foods You Have to Try in Japan (1)

When you hear “sushi” your mind probably immediately jumped to the imagery of a deep red piece of raw tuna or a savory piece of salmon over a small bite-sized portion of rice. Even for some, the word “sushi” might conjure up an image of a deep fried roll with sauce dripping all over it.

Sushi isn’t always exclusive to fish and rice! Nikuzushi is meat sushi! A delicious piece of steak atop perfectly cooked rice. Those are the 2 main ingredients in nikuzushi and depending on where you go, you might find it comes with other ingredients. Generally, you can find salt and some kind of pickled vegetable (think relish) with it. It’s as simple as sushi but it has a truly deep flavor.

Gyu don

Traditional Japanese Food: The Top 10 Foods You Have to Try in Japan (2)

You will find a lot of “don” type of dishes when you come to Japan. I might go as far to say it is the most common food in the country, it is definitely the most easily accessible. This is another relatively simple dish that has infinite possibilities. Gyu (meaning beef) and don (being a rice bowl) are the 2 ingredients required in this dish. Gyu don is often very filling and fairly cheap, you can find a wide variety of this kind of food.

(Video) 25 Must-Try Dishes In Japan | The Ultimate List

There are plenty of places that are dedicated to selling Gyu don, like, Matsuya and Sukiya. This dish usually comes with pickled ginger and miso soup! Quite the bang for your buck.

Udon

Traditional Japanese Food: The Top 10 Foods You Have to Try in Japan (3)

Udon is a very thick wheat flour noodle served with a dark soy sauce broth. I find this broth slightly more sweet more than savory. This dish is served both hot and cold. Depending on where you are in Japan you will find regional versions of this dish. North, South, East, and Western Japan all have their own takes on this dish.

Within Udon, there are a bunch of styles, so it is recommended to try out a few, however, the most classic version of this dish is the Kake Udon. It is common to have some kind of tempura with this dish, I personally recommend the soft boiled tempura egg!

Yakisoba

Traditional Japanese Food: The Top 10 Foods You Have to Try in Japan (4)

This dish is especially delicious after a late night of drinking at your favorite Izakaya! Of course, if you’re not into drinking, this food can be enjoyed by anyone. Yakisoba is a fried buckwheat noodle dish that comes with small pieces of pork and a variety of vegetables, usually cabbage and carrots and garnished with aonori (seaweed powder) and pickled ginger. It is not uncommon to see this dish prepared in absolutely massive amounts. It’s quite a popular matsuri (Japanese festival) food.

Yakitori

Traditional Japanese Food: The Top 10 Foods You Have to Try in Japan (5)

This might be one of the most fun foods to eat in Tokyo, purely because of the atmosphere that is usually provided with a Yakitori shop. Yakitori are incredibly delicious grilled chicken skewers. You can find just about every part of the chicken is used at a Yakitori shop, this falls in line with the Japanese mentality of “Mottainai” which is the belief of not being wasteful.

One of the most popular Yakitori sticks is “negima”, grilled pieces of chicken stuck between Japanese green onion. It absolutely delicious and you can not eat just one. The quality of Yakitori can range from street food to Michelin starred. If you’re feeling adventurous you can walk down any “Yokocho” (drinking alley) and grab a seat at a small counter and sit with the locals or you can head to Torikizoku (a large yakitori chain in Japan) which is often times called the McDonalds of yakitori.

(Video) 5 Must-Try Japanese Food Experiences in Tokyo

Yakiimo

Traditional Japanese Food: The Top 10 Foods You Have to Try in Japan (6)

This one might come off as weird and totally out of left field but Yaki imo, or Japanese Sweet Potato, is incredibly delicious and sweet. This is one of the most eaten foods in winter and my personal favorite dessert in all of Japan. These are very different from the sweet potato we have grown to know. Sold in flatbed trucks with ovens that are constantly stoking charcoal to keep this delicious treats hot and ready. There is always a variety of sweet potato as well, my personal favorite is the deep golden kind, it is unmistakeable from the others. Similar to the ice cream trucks we have grown up with, when you hear the speakers blasting “Yakiimo”, I recommend to run in that general direction and get one for yourself.

In addition to the vendors that are around, you can usually find these wrapped in paper bags in front of stores sitting atop warm coals. As someone once told me “Yakiimo is the golden fruit”.

Tamagoyaki

Traditional Japanese Food: The Top 10 Foods You Have to Try in Japan (7)

This Japanese style omelet is very different from the egg dishes we have come to love. Everything about it is different. It’s square instead of round, it’s thick instead of thin, it comes on a stick (sometimes), and its sweet. Tamagoyaki, in my experience, is a love or hate sort of food. You either love it or hate it. While you can certainly eat Tamagoyaki by itself and at any time, it is often enjoyed as the final piece in a sushi meal. Some people even order it first to see if the chef is up to par!

Karaage

Traditional Japanese Food: The Top 10 Foods You Have to Try in Japan (8)

Japan’s take on fried chicken. Karaage is always fried to golden perfection and served with a dollop of Japanese mayo on the side (Seriously, Japanese mayo and regular mayo needs to be differentiated). Karaage comes in a handful of flavors and I’m sure there are some places that get creative with the flavors, but by far the most popular are simply original and Soy sauce. Karaage can be found at just about any restaurant and convenience store, I recommend the 7-11 Karaage stick, they even have a spicy version!

There’s even a restaurant called ‘Kara Yama” which means “mountain of karaage”. They pile a plate high, full of fried chicken. It doesn’t hurt that they make some very delicious and very crispy fried chicken.

Abura Soba

Traditional Japanese Food: The Top 10 Foods You Have to Try in Japan (9)

Abura Soba is a form a ramen that has very little broth a lot of noodles. This is gaining popularity in the west with places like Ivan Ramen serving this dish. However, this was originated in Tokyo because of the drastically cheaper cost point it takes to make this. While highly customizable the heart of Abura Soba remains a thick middle served in a bowl with oil and pork fat in the bottom, the key is to mix the noodles up with the sauce!

This is often served with a thick chili paste and some form of grilled pork slices or chunks and course garnished with green onion.

Unagi

Traditional Japanese Food: The Top 10 Foods You Have to Try in Japan (10)

Unagi, or Japanese Eel, is somewhat of a more luxurious Japanese food because of it’s high cost. However, this can be one of the most delicious Japanese foods you could possibly have. Unagi can be served in a variety of ways including sushi, rice bowls, and even as a sweet bread like pie! Unagi is very high in protein and known for it’s rich and deep flavor.

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It should be noted that Unagi should be prepared by professionals as the oils in the meat can make it really tough to eat. Just watch some unagi masters carefully and tediously stoke the charcoals to cook the unagi to perfection. It is known that the Shizuoka prefecture is home to the best unagi in Japan.

While the cooking process differs from region to region, the most common form is with a sweet glaze that is applied during the roasting process and then served on a bed of steamed Japanese rice. This sauce is arguably as important as the unagi itself so you can bet that the serious restaurants won’t give up their recipe that easily! How would you like to have this delicious Japanese dish prepared?

So there you have it, get out there and try some traditional Japanese food you might not have known about!

If you wind up eating anything on the list we would love to see pictures of what you got! Post them on our Facebook group!

YourJapan Blog

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(Video) Top 10 Best Japanese Foods | Must try traditional japanese dishes

Tags: gyu donkaraagenikuzushiTamagoyakiudonunagiyakisobayakitori

FAQs

What is a Japanese traditional meal? ›

A typical Japanese dinner includes rice, soup, pickles, salad, and protein and vegetable dishes. Beverages, such as tea, beer, and sake, are served alongside, and the meal may be followed by dessert. The dishes include classic Japanese foods, and other Asian and Western cuisines influence many modern recipes.

What is Japan's national fruit? ›

What are the health benefits of persimmon fruit? Persimmons are the national fruit of Japan. They are usually in season between September and December, and are a good source of potassium, phosphorous, and vitamin C.

What do Japanese people like to eat? ›

The diet is rich in steamed rice, noodles, fish, tofu, natto, seaweed, and fresh, cooked, or pickled fruits and vegetables but low in added sugars and fats. It may also contain some eggs, dairy, or meat, although these typically make up a small part of the diet.

What do Japanese people eat at home? ›

What are the Foods that Japanese Eat at Home?
  • Rice.
  • Noodles (ramen, soba, somen, and udon)
  • Vegetable including sea vegetables and daikon radish.
  • Soy (soy sauce, tofu, miso,edamame)
  • Fish such as salmon, mackerel.
  • Green tea.
  • Fruits, like tangerine, persimmons and Fuji grapes.
4 Sept 2017

What is Japan popular for? ›

Japan is known for everything from onsen hot springs and kabuki baths (dating to the 6th and 16th centuries, respectively) to all-night neon-lit dance parties, anime, and sushi boat restaurants, all of which are decidedly more modern.

What do Japanese eat for breakfast? ›

Traditional Japanese breakfast usually follows the style of a Japanese set meal, with the staple being rice and miso soup and ohitashi (boiled vegetables) served as side dishes. Natto (fermented soybeans), pickles, and grilled fish are often also served on the side to help complement the rice.

Do Japanese eat eggs? ›

The average Japanese person eats around 320 eggs (tamago) per year, according to the International Egg Commission, placing it in the Top 3 worldwide. (In comparison, the average American eats around 250 eggs per year.)

What do Japanese students eat for lunch? ›

Most often rice, soup, a salad and a meat or fish dish. A 200-milliliter bottle of milk is included daily, but once or twice a month coffee milk or a yogurt drink is served instead. The rice dish is rarely plain white rice. Instead, it will have something such as mushrooms or wakame kelp mixed through it.

What is Japan's national flower? ›

Cherry blossoms (SAKURA) are Japan's unofficial national flower, formerly called tree flower (KONOHA). In Japan's early history it ranked second after plum blossoms (UME).

What is Japan's national animal? ›

Macaque monkeys are the national animals of Japan. Also known as snow monkeys because they often live in snowy mountain ranges, they have long, thick hair and red faces.

What is Japan's national bird? ›

Did you know that the Green Pheasant is Japan's National Bird? The Green Pheasant, an omnivorous bird, is endemic to Japan.

What do poor Japanese eat? ›

BEING POOR IN JAPAN: What do poor Japanese people eat?

What is the most famous food? ›

Italian pizza is probably the most famous food in the World. Pizza has crossed the borders of Italy a long time ago and nowadays it is consumed all over the world. Pizza is the topmost liked food in the world.

What is our traditional food? ›

Source Chaat is considered to be one of the primary street foods in India, and one will surely find many chaat vendors on every street of the country. These snacks include kachori, pani puri, bhel puri, dahi chaat, masala puri, and many more distinct variations in the same.

How do Japanese stay thin? ›

Having a balanced diet

In fact, the Japanese diet is very much balanced and versatile. They eat nutritious foods in each meal that includes carbohydrate, animal protein, vegetable protein, healthy fat, vitamins, and minerals. Thus, they enjoy eating rice, fish, soy, vegetables, fruit, and green tea without sugar.

What do Japanese eat for snacks? ›

These are the snacks that have held on for decades or longer to become much adored symbols of Japanese snack culture.
  • Senbei. Senbei are Japanese rice crackers. ...
  • Crepes. ...
  • Pocky. ...
  • Dorayaki. ...
  • Melon Pan. ...
  • Manju. ...
  • Dango. ...
  • Daifuku.
16 Jul 2015

How many meals do Japanese eat a day? ›

Japanese Eating Habits | This Month's Feature | Trends in Japan | Web Japan. Of the 95% of Japanese that eat three meals a day, most people consider dinner to be the most important. More than 80% of them usually have dinner at home with their families.

Why is Japan's flag a red dot? ›

The Japanese flag is made up of a red circle, symbolizing the sun, against a white background. It is known as the hinomaru in Japanese, meaning "circle of the sun." Because Japan lies at the far West of the Pacific Ocean, the sun rises spectacularly over the sea to the East.

What is unique to Japan? ›

Japan's architecture, art, traditions, crafts. Also, its worldwide known pop culture (including manga, anime, and video games). It's something that definitely only Japan can offer. No other country contains the same characteristics.

What is the most famous thing in Japan? ›

Without a doubt Japan's most recognizable landmark, majestic Mount Fuji (Fuji-san) is also the country's highest mountain peak. Towering 3,776 meters over an otherwise largely flat landscape to the south and east, this majestic and fabled mountain is tall enough to be seen from Tokyo, more than 100 kilometers away.

What do they drink in Japan? ›

Whilst sake (rice wine) is the national drink of Japan, lager-beer (pronounced "beer-ru" in Japanese) is the most popular drink. Widely available brands include Kirin, Sapporo, Suntory, and Asahi. They are all worth a taste and average about 5% abv.

What do Japanese people sleep on? ›

It is common practice in Japan to sleep on a very thin mattress over a tatami mat, made of rice straw and woven with soft rush grass. The Japanese believe this practice will help your muscles relax, allowing for a natural alignment of your hips, shoulders and spine.

What do Japanese eat for Christmas? ›

Every Christmas season, an estimated 3.6 million Japanese families treat themselves to fried chicken from the American fast-food chain, in what has become a nationwide tradition. A bucket of KFC chicken has been the go-to dinner for Japan since the 1970's, when KFC launched their “Kentucky for Christmas” campaign.

What do Japanese say before they eat? ›

Meshiagare: “bon appétit”

In Japan, the equivalent phrase is meshiagare, which would be said by the chef or host to show that the food has been served and is ready to eat.

Do Japanese eat bread? ›

The most ubiquitous type of bread in Japan is the white and pillowy square-shaped bread called shokupan, which simply means “eating bread.” Made of white flour, yeast, milk or milk powder, butter, salt and sugar, shokupan is both loved and taken for granted by most.

Do Japanese eat bacon? ›

Japan: Bacon there is similar to what we have in America -- same cut, same curing. However, the Japanese market uses shorter slices than what we're used to and often sells it precooked, which creates a chewier texture for final cooking.

What is Japan's favorite dessert? ›

Ice cream was rated the most popular dessert in Japan. According to a survey conducted in October 2021, almost 47 percent of respondents named the frozen treat as their number one dessert. For consecutive years, ice cream was the dessert of choice for the majority of consumers in Japan.

What is the most popular cake in Japan? ›

Japanese Strawberry Shortcake (Ichigo Cake)

Light, airy, fluffy and creamy, strawberry shortcake is one of the most popular flavors of cake in Japan.

What is Japanese sweets called? ›

Traditional Japanese sweets, known as “wagashi”, are also made with these principles in mind. Wagashi originated as small morsels for the Japanese imperial family and nobility to enjoy with a cup of bitter matcha green tea. Over time, the treats evolved into a variety of intricately crafted works of edible art.

Why Japan is so healthy? ›

A combination of low calorie foods, no added sugar or fats, and small portions, promotes healthy weight and may even aid in weight loss. Foods part of the traditional Japanese diet eliminate most risk factors of heart disease like sugar and fat, therefore it helps to maintain heart health.

Can you eat raw chicken in Japan? ›

Apparently a thing in Japan — where it is known as torisashi — and available at a handful of culinarily adventurous American restaurants, chicken sashimi is pretty much what it sounds like: raw chicken.

Why do Japanese Add sugar to eggs? ›

Soy sauce, sugar, sake, and other seasonings are added to make a sweet and spicy taste, and the ingredients are dipped into the beaten egg.

What do school kids eat in Japan? ›

A typical school meal consists of cooked white rice, a main dish, a side dish and soup, accompanied by dessert and milk. Examples of the Japanese food that students like are grilled fish and boiled meat and vegetables.

Do Japanese eat fast? ›

Japan - average fast food consumption per week in 2016-2018

In 2018, 53.71 percent of respondents in Japan stated they eat fast food less than once per week.

How long is Japanese school? ›

Curriculum Outline

The Japanese school system primarily consists of six-year elementary schools, three-year junior high schools and three-year high schools, followed by a two-or-three-year junior colleges or a four-year colleges. Compulsory education lasts for 9 years through elementary and junior high school.

Is sushi Japanese or Chinese? ›

Today's sushi is most often associated with Japanese culture, though the many variations of sushi can actually be traced to numerous countries and cultures including Japanese, Korean, and Chinese.

Is ramen a traditional Japanese food? ›

Ramen (/ˈrɑːmən/) (拉麺, ラーメン or らーめん, rāmen, IPA: [ɾaꜜːmeɴ]) is a Japanese noodle dish. It consists of Chinese-style wheat noodles (or 中華麺, chūkamen) served in a broth; common flavors are soy sauce and miso, with typical toppings including sliced pork (chāshū), nori (dried seaweed), menma (bamboo shoots), and scallions.

Why is Japanese food popular? ›

Famous for its use of unique, nutritious, fresh and mouth-watering ingredients, as well as its remarkable presentation, traditional Japanese food is one of the most prized and popular cuisines in the world. So much so that Japanese food has even been added to UNESCO's 'Intangible Cultural Heritage' list.

What do Japanese eat in a day? ›

what I eat in a day in Japan |Traditional Japanese food - YouTube

Is Stir Fry Chinese or Japanese? ›

Stir frying (Chinese: 炒; pinyin: chǎo) is a cooking technique in which ingredients are fried in a small amount of very hot oil while being stirred or tossed in a wok. The technique originated in China and in recent centuries has spread into other parts of Asia and the West.

Which is healthier Japanese or Chinese food? ›

Japanese food is usually light to the stomach. They are generally considered to be healthier than Chinese foods. It is because the latter makes use of too much grease in their food preparations along with the standard inclusion of carbohydrate foods rice and noodles.

Is fried rice Japanese or Chinese? ›

Flavors. Fried rice originally came from China. So classic fried rice flavors, such as barbecued pork, are often found in Japanese fried rice.

Should you drink the ramen broth? ›

It's totally OK to drink the broth from the bowl. It's considered a compliment to how good the broth is. But finish it at your own risk; those broths are flavor bombs, packed with sodium (see above). Another thing that is OK to do is to ask for extra noodles if you've finished the ones in your bowl.

What is the white and pink thing in ramen? ›

Narutomaki: If you've ever noticed a small white disc with a pink swirl in a bowl of ramen or even a picture of ramen, that's narutomaki or fish cake.

Is ramen healthy to eat? ›

Though instant ramen noodles provide iron, B vitamins and manganese, they lack fiber, protein and other crucial vitamins and minerals. Additionally, their MSG, TBHQ and high sodium contents may negatively affect health, such as by increasing your risk of heart disease, stomach cancer and metabolic syndrome.

What is Japan's best known for? ›

Japan is known for everything from onsen hot springs and kabuki baths (dating to the 6th and 16th centuries, respectively) to all-night neon-lit dance parties, anime, and sushi boat restaurants, all of which are decidedly more modern.

What do Japanese people eat for lunch? ›

Various rice bowls and noodle dishes are popular for lunch. For example, ramen, soba, udon, and gyudon beef bowls are popular. Many people take bento lunch boxes to school or work. Dinner is usually the main meal of the day and can range from sushi to tori katsu, which is like a chicken cutlet.

What meats do Japanese eat? ›

Although beef is the most popular choice of meat, shabu-shabu can also be prepared with lamb, chicken, pork, duck, crab, or lobster. Steamed rice and a variety of sauces are often served on the side, accompanying the main dish.

What do poor Japanese eat? ›

BEING POOR IN JAPAN: What do poor Japanese people eat?

How do Japanese stay thin? ›

Having a balanced diet

In fact, the Japanese diet is very much balanced and versatile. They eat nutritious foods in each meal that includes carbohydrate, animal protein, vegetable protein, healthy fat, vitamins, and minerals. Thus, they enjoy eating rice, fish, soy, vegetables, fruit, and green tea without sugar.

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